Egyptian Pyramids


 When most people mention Ancient Egypt the first thing that 
comes to mind is the Pyramids. To construct such monuments required a 
mastery of art, architecture and social organization that few cultures 
would ever rival. The pyramids are said to have built Egypt by being 
the force that knit together the kingdom's economy. Their creations 
were so substantial, that the sight of these vast pyramids would take 
your breath away. Today, the valley of the Nile has an open air 
museum so people can witness these grand monuments. 
 Obsessed with the afterlife, Egypt's rulers of 4,500 years ago 
glorified themselves in stone, thereby laying the foundation of the 
first great nation-state. A Pyramid is an enormous machine that helps 
the king go through the wall of the dead, achieve resurrection and 
live forever in the happiness of the gods. The start of the Old 
Kingdom is said to be the building of the Djoser's monument. The 
construction of Step Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser began around 2630 B.C. 
and was designed to awe the ancient Egyptians, to impress them with 
their rule's godlike strength. It was the world's first great 
construction project; indeed, it was the world's largest building.
 Djoser, the second king of the 3rd dynasty, hired an architect 
called Imhoptep who for the first time constructed a tomb completely 
of stone. Imhoptep is considered the preeminent genius of the Old 
Kingdom. He assembled one workforce to quarry limestone at the cliff 
of Tura, across the Nile, another to haul the stone to the site where 
master carvers shaped each block and put it in place.
 The Step Pyramid is a terraced structure rising in six unequal 
stages to a height of 60 meters, its base measuring 120 meters by 108 
meters. The substructure has a system of underground corridors and 
rooms. Its main feature being a central shaft 25 meters deep and 8 
meters wide. The step pyramid rises within a vast walled court 544 
meters long and 277 meters wide, in which are the remnants of several 
stone edifices built to supply the wants of the king in the here 
after. Towering limestone columns were shaped to mimic the sway and 
droop of leafy plants. Immovable doors hung on great carved hinges. 
Facades called false doors through which the pharaoh's ka, or vital 
force, was presumed to pass, lay recessed within walls. The interiors 
of dummy temples were packed with rubble. Everything about the place 
bespoke illusion. The Step Pyramid was a ladder. Not a symbol of a 
ladder but an actual one, by which the soul of a dead ruler might 
climb to the sky, joining the gods in immortality.
 No one knows why the Egyptians created this fantastic scene, 
but some archaeologists speculate that there was an Old Kingdom belief 
that a work of art, a building, had power and utility in the afterlife 
in direct proportion to its uselessness in the real world. In this 
view, each false door, each dummy temple worked in the afterlife 
precisely because it could not function in this one. 
 On the north side of the pyramid is a small stone cubicle, 
with a pair of tiny holes in its facade. When you look through these 
holes, you see two eyes retuning your stare, the blank gaze of a life 
size statue of Djoser sitting on the throne. The holes are there for 
the pharaoh to look out perhaps at the stars in the northern sky 
called the Imperishables because they never set.
 Many believe that the building of Djoser's pyramid complex, 
which was accomplished by hundreds of workers from across the land, 
served to join those provinces into the world's first nation-state. 
During the Old Kingdom, which began around 2700 B.C. and lasted some 
550 years, each pharaoh after Djoser marshaled a vast portion of his 
country's manpower and wealth to build his own tomb and ensure his 
 To build such outstanding monuments required a preciseness of 
architecture, and years of endless labor from so many Egyptians. The 
kingdom developed a funerary tradition around the worship of their 
divine pharaohs, both living and dead. Every aspect of life was 
affected. The Egyptians dug a network of canals off the Nile to 
transport stone for the pyramids and food for the workers, and a 
simple, local agriculture became the force that knit together the 
kingdom's economy. The need to keep records of the harvest may have 
led to the invention of a written language.
 Yet after five and a half centuries this flourishing 
civilization collapsed, plunging Egypt into disorder. Perhaps the 
seeds of the collapse were planted in the soil of the civilization 
that, for all its grandeur, seemed obsessed with the idea that its 
dead rulers must live forever.
 The daily life of the workers constructing the pyramids was 
one of repetitive toil. On wooden sledges across the sands, workers 
hauled the giant stone the largest granite blocks weighing as much as 
seventy tons-that built the pyramids. Egypt created a vast 
agricultural empire, yet all the irrigation was done by hand. Farmers 
filled two heavy jars from the canals, then hung them from a yoke over 
their shoulders. 
 Recent excavation of the graves of pyramid workers reveals 
that some were missing limbs or had damaged spines the human cost of a 
national compulsion to glorify gods and deify the souls of kings. Two 
generations after Djoser's reign, the center of the Old Kingdom moved 
north to the barren plateau of Giza. Three 4th dynasty pyramids were 
erected here, they are included among the seven wonders of the world. 
The norther most and the oldest of the group was built by Khufu, the 
second king of the 4th dynasty called the Great Pyramid, it is the 
largest of the three the length of each side at the base averaging 775 
3/4 feet and it height being 481 2/5 feet. The middle pyramid was 
built by Khafre, the fourth of the eight kings of the 4th dynasty; the 
structure measures 707 3/4 feet on each side and was originally 471 
feet high. The southernmost and last pyramid to be built was that of 
Menkaure the sixth king of the 4th dynasty. Each side measures 356 ½ 
feet and the structure's completed height was 218 feet.
 Each monument originally consisted of not only the pyramid 
itself, which housed the body of the deceased king, but also an 
adjoining mortuary temple and a sloping causeway temple near the Nile. 
 Close to each pyramid were one or more subsidiary pyramids used for 
the burials of members of the royal family.
 To the south of the Great Pyramid near Khafre's valley temple 
lies the Great Sphinx. Carved out of a knoll of rock, the Sphinx has 
the facial features of King Khafre, but the body of a recumbent lion; 
it is approximately 240 feet long and 66 feet high. The sphinx guards 
Khafu's vallytemple and causeway.
 Around 2465 B.C.- halfway through the Old Kingdom-pyramids 
suddenly became less important. No one knows why, but many scholars 
have suggested that after Khufu's pyramid, which took roughly 23 years 
to buil, the kingdom grew weary with each pharaoh's effort to outdo 
his predecessor. Several pharaohs died before their pyramids were 
completed, perhaps a cause of embarrassment or even horror among the 
 Never agian would a king build his pyramid on a truly colossal 
scale. Instead the religious focus shifted from the pyramid itself 
toward the mortuary temple that stood just east of it. The funerary 
culture was growing more sophisticated, even as the pharaoh's 
unlimited power was beginning to erode.
 The pyramids will always be a constant reminder of, the vast 
architecturial accomplishments of Egypt's Old Kingdom. A mystical 
gateway for a pharaoh's leap to immortality, a pyramid drew resourses 
from throughout the king's domain and beyond.


Quotes: Search by Author